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Front cover of Socialist History No 28

ISBN: 1 85489 161 8 (pb)
ISSN: 0969 4331

The Abyssinia Crisis - Seventy Years On

2005 marks the seventieth anniversary of Italy's invasion of Ethiopia - the final humiliating step in Europe's colonisation of Africa and harbinger of the world war to come. In this issue of Socialist History, our contributors offer provocative reassessments of this key episode, set in its broader contemporary context by the issue's editor, Allison Drew.

Exploding the myth that Italian fascism was not marked by the racism of Nazism, Willie Thompson's article describes the stark brutality displayed in Abyssinia by Italian troops and the key role the conflict played in Mussolini's domestic and international calculations.

The conflict also had a significant impact upon the international left and the challenges simultaneously posed it by the rise of fascism, the reconfigurations of democracy and imperialism and the uncertainties of Soviet foreign policy. Christian Hogsbjerg explores the major impact the Abyssinian struggle had on the Trinidadian intellectual C.L.R. James, then in Britain working on his masterful study of the Haitian Revolution The Black Jacobins. James in this period identified strongly with the non-Stalinist left in Britain, and the predicaments of this socialist anti-war movement are evaluated here by Andrew Flinn and Gidon Cohen.

In our final feature, David Howell shows that in the 1935 general election voters were generally far less interested in Abyssinia than either politicians or political activists. Perhaps, Howell suggests, the same cannot be said so confidently of the last general election and the impact of Iraq.

The issue concludes with a discussion of the contemporary Moscow arts scene by Margarita Tupitsyn and our usual reviews section.

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